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The History of 420

The term 4/20 has a blunt but amusing, history. While some attribute the holiday to Bob Dylan’s song “Rainy Day Women 12 & 35” (12 multiplied by 35 equals 420) others claim that 420 is code among police officers. Most credible sources attribute the holiday to five high schoolers from San Rafael High School in California. 

Young, Wild, and Free

During the fall of 1971, at 4:20 pm, a group of high school students, who called themselves

“The Waldos,” would meet next to the school’s statue of chemist Lou Parker. According to legend, their goal was to find a patch of cannabis grown by a friend’s brother. Afraid the cops would discover him, the brother drew a map of the Point Reyes

An image of 4 men who claim to have started the 4/20 holiday in the 1970's

woods for the teens. If the Waldos could find it, the brother said, the plot was theirs. 

The group used “420” and even “420 Louie” on documents and maps to refer to their meeting spot. While the patch was never found, the term 420 quickly took on mythical status. One of the group’s brothers was a close friend of Grateful Dead guitarist, Phil Lesh. Once the Waldos began hanging out with the band, the term spread.

High Times 

Throughout the 90s, the Grateful Dead used the term to encourage people to smoke at their concerts. Steve Bloom, a reporter for the cannabis magazine High Times, was at a Grateful Dead show when he was given a flier urging people to “meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing in Marin County at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt. Tamalpais.” The High Times published it. 

A Vintage Grateful Dead Poster from July 1996

“It’s a phenomenon,” Steve Capper, one of the Waldos, once commented. “Most things die within a couple [of] years, but this just goes on and on. It’s not like someday somebody’s going to say, ‘OK, Cannabis New Year’s is on June 23rd now.'”

Celebrating 4/20

Today, people across the world celebrate 4/20. While some events, like Cannafest or The Emerald Cup, attract thousands, even smaller towns are embracing 4/20 festivals. (Our newsletter lists some of the most popular festivals across the country.) While there are many ways to celebrate 4/20, from crafting cannabis cocktails to re-watching your favorite movies, weed (or CBD) is required.

How are you celebrating 4/20 this year? Let us know in the comments.


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